Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Light on Communist Policy. (1922)

From the June 1922 issue of the Socialist Standard

It is with a certain interest, not to say unfeigned delight, that I learn from Max Eastman (Liberator, April, 1922), that E. T. Whitehead, of the Communist Party of Great Britain, is “inclined to believe “that in the last few years” an unusual number of other-regarding spirits have been thrown down into the physical sphere “from some haunt of the disembodied ! He believes this because it is “more likely to be true than not.” This credulity perhaps explains Whitehead’s little vagaries.

Max Eastman facetiously suggests that the American Communists “solve their problem of perfection by organising a party on the astral plane to control the one which now controls the visible manifestation.” I should be sorry to rob Max Eastman of the credit due to the originator of so charming an idea, but I fear he is too late. It has already been done here. I have tried hard to keep up with and understand the erratic moves in Communist policy, never realising until now that I was following a will-o’-the-wisp, not the product of gross human minds, but of ghostly Third International “pixey wixies.”

For alas, even out of the physical sphere conflict reigns. There are other sources of Communist inspiration; for instance, the much older firm established long before Theosophy raised its upstart head. In the Evening News (27th March, 1922) I read that “at a confirmation service last evening at St. John’s Church, . . . over 40 Socialists and Communists, members of the Church of England, were confirmed by the Bishop of Whalley.” I can’t vouch for the accuracy of this report, but like Whitehead “I am inclined to believe it” about members of the Communist party because “it is more likely to be true than not.” A writer in the Communist recently waxed merry over the untutored person who described them as “communionists.” On second thoughts I think the apparently ignorant one must have known something.

A correspondent of the Daily Herald (31st Dec., 1921) relates how the South Shields Branch of the Communist Party had “a clay bust of Lloyd George with horns” before which apparently they discussed business.

Here are a few other things to be accounted for only by the hypothesis I have accepted. At the Communist Party’s recent policy conference a resolution was introduced which affirmed that “It is our duty also to strive for the formation of a Mass Party . . .” Eden and Cedar Paul reporting the conference in the Workers’ Republic (8th April, 1922), say “The discussion . . . turned on the question as to what was really meant by the Third International slogan of the Mass Party.” However, although “the discussion seemed to leave unsolved the problem precisely what the Third International means by a Mass Party,” the resolution was carried. Puzzling, you say? Not at all : they knew what it meant on the astral plane.

From the Communist (25th March) I find that the Communist Party’s “historic mission” is “the leadership of the working masses — — — .”

Of course, the “working masses” already have leaders, heaps of them, but these it seems are not good leaders : “Watch them,” say the Communists.

Why are they not good ones ? One reason say the Communists is that they have lost contact and sympathy with the rank and file.

But E. and C. Paul, two of the stars, say “the official group (of the C.P.G.B.) unfortunately consists of persons who have become professional politicians and are removed thereby from the activities of working class life” and “the slogan ‘ watch your leaders ‘ is as necessary in the Communist Party as in the Trade Unions.” (Workers’ Republic, 8th April).

Not only that but although Stewart says a mass party “takes leadership of the masses, not by going back to where they are, but by taking them from where they are to where they ought to be,” his fellow member Brain says “they had found by experience that the workers did not come out of the craft unions to the revolutionary movement; they stayed where they were. They would not come out so the Communist Party had to go to them.” (Communist, 25th’ March).

(This points to physic communication with Mahommet, who solved a little problem of his own on just such lines as these).

Some there were like Leckie who thought that it was the party which was going to lead the masses and therefore wanted in it “only those who really understood Communism.” This of course was absurd. What has the Communist Party, the party of “action” to do with an understanding of Communism? Murphy is of the opinion that “only a small minority of our party has any idea of the significance of the mighty task before us” and as a writer in the Worker’s Republic (official organ of the Communist Party of Ireland) remarked, not only do they not understand now, but lots of them never will; the revolution will be here before that can happen !

No, it is evidently the “professional politicians” who are to lead: “It is one thing to call upon the Party leadership to give the lead, another thing to put into operation that leadership.” (Murphy.) While Walter Newbold favours affiliation to the Labour Party, but temporarily opposes it, because he believes “that at this juncture we have not had the constituent parts of the Communist Party sufficiently long together, we have not welded them sufficiently into an intelligent party understanding the implications of political action for us to be able to take them as a. party into the Labour Party.” (Communist, March 25th). (Italics mine).

Excellent advice that “Watch your leaders”—for the members of the Communist Party.

As for Labour Party affiliation it is interesting to note that while the Communist Party proposes to insist on “freedom of criticism and freedom of action,” inside the Labour party (if it gets in), a Daily Herald correspondent writing on the L.C.C. elections stated with regard to Inkpin, who, although a Communist, ran as Labour candidate, that “it should be clearly understood . . . that Inkpin has definitely agreed to the Labour programme and will act in accordance with Labour Party decisions if desired.” (28th February, 1922).

It is all now perfectly clear. The “working masses” will watch their leaders, on the advice of the Communist Party. The latter’s members will watch their leaders on the advice of Eden and Cedar Paul. While the leaders themselves will have their eyes fixed on Whitehead’s hobgoblins and other divine and satanic sprites who sit up aloft and watch over the tribe of Labour fakirs !

Could the revolutionary movement be in better hands than these?
R. Bird

Phaëton: Fragment of a Conversation. (1922)

From the June 1922 issue of the Socialist Standard

You Socialists (said the Apologist for the Present Social Order) make the mistake of thinking that capitalism is evil in itself.

Nothing (said the Socialist) is evil in itself. It is in our judgment only that things appear as good or evil. Hamlet’s “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so,” is sound philosophy. Capitalism is therefore good in some men’s eyes, evil in others ; and it is in the nature of things that it chiefly seems good to those who benefit by it—the masters, and evil mainly to those who suffer by it—the workers.

But it is not a philosophical point that I wish to make (explained the A. for the P.S.O.). I wish to suggest that what you and I as workers regard as evils are the fruit of human failings, which would give a similar crop of evils under any other system.

The truth (replied the Socialist) is precisely the reverse. Within capitalist society, let men be never so desirous of harmony, they cannot but collide in the process of producing wealth ; in the socialist commonwealth, let a minority be ever so rapacious, it has not the means to enslave the majority as now. This is not to say, however, that the socialist pronounces capitalism purely evil. On the contrary, he holds that each succeeding organisation of society was necessary to the development of man’s power over Nature—capitalism among the rest. From the point of view of human progress it is therefore good, until it has served its purpose, and becomes a chain instead of a means of advance.

That time has now arrived.

The old Greeks had a story of Phaëton, son of Phoebus. He would drive the chariot of the sun, which daily moved across the firmament and shed blessed beams upon the world. But the eager steeds disdained his control; and the unguided car, sweeping too near the earth, blasted the life it was designed to nourish.

Economic teams have their Phaëtons too.

The continuous improvement in methods of production extracts an ever-richer return from human labour : makes highly productive even the labour of the weak and unskilled : makes possible that mass production which might minister to the sustenance, the culture, the leisure of mankind. But these forces capitalism, though it has fostered, cannot fitly employ, because it is ultimately concerned not with satisfying human needs, but with selling for profit. So they operate to create surfeit on one hand, emptiness on the other, and run to huge surpluses which compel spasmodic interruptions of work. Like the radiant, mythical horses they plunge and strive. Misery and death are in their track, where life and joy should be.

Socialism will harness them better.

£1000 Fund. (1922)

Party News from the June 1922 issue of the Socialist Standard 

The Story of Mr. Penny. (1922)

From the June 1922 issue of the Socialist Standard

Happy the man who can reflect that when the call came that his King and Country needed him, he was not found wanting. Virtue may have to serve as its own reward in many spheres, but the motherland has never been a niggard in giving her gratitude a tangible form. True, something like a million gave their little lives when called upon; but are not their names inscribed on multitudinous war memorials at every street corner? Are not their sorrowing dependents saved from the wolves of poverty by kindly Pensions Boards?

Some, by bodily infirmity, or other disability were prevented from meeting the hated Prussians face to face. To these fell the humbler task of defending the domestic hearth from the depredations of domestic Prussians. Take the case of Mr. C. E. Penny, as recorded in the Daily Mail of April 13th, 1922, under the caption, “Man who broke a Strike.” When the supreme call came in 1914, Mr. Penny joined the Royal Army Service Corps, but invalided out within a few months, volunteered for the Civil Service. In the strenuous years that followed it was he, who on behalf of the Ministry of Food, prosecuted nearly 50,000 profiteers. This should have been enough to earn imperishable glory for any man, and at least a humble niche in the National Valhalla. But his most brilliant work was yet to come. During the railway strike of 1919, “it has been said that it was the marvellous transport scheme which he evolved that broke the strike.”
  “He had a genius for organising transport. In his little office he had a table resembling genealogical trees, and poring over these various lines of lorry transport he saw that no department went unprovided for. The rest of his time was spent in visiting every corner of the country during that strenuous period.”
Can any reward be too high for a man like that? Well, yes, it can ! There are certain recognisable and reasonable limits. He was given a position in the Board of Trade’s Food Department. Here at last he could rest upon his laurels, assured at least of a competency and comforted in the tangible recognition of his country’s gratitude. But alas, the Daily Mail, with a brevity almost brutal, tells us in the same sentence, that “he left about a month ago owing to departmental economy.”

The worst is to tell. He left his boarding house in Clanricarde Gardens on April 7th, and left a note in which he stated he was one of the thousands of workless and penniless men. He was found dead in bed in an apartment house in Brighton, with a tube attached to a gas bracket in his mouth. Let it never be said that Capital forgets those who serve it well and truly in its hour of need !
W. T. Hopley